Gentle measures are those which tend to exert a calming, quieting, and soothing influence on the mind, or to produce only such excitements as are pleasurable in their character, as means of repressing wrong and encouraging right action. Ungentle measures are those which tend to inflame and irritate the mind, or to agitate it with painful excitements.
Three Degrees of Violence.
There seem to be three grades or forms of violence to which a mother may resort in controlling her children, or, perhaps, rather three classes of measures which are more or less violent in their effects. To illustrate these we will take an example.
One day Louisa, four years old, asked her mother for an apple. “Have you had any already?” asked her mother.
“Only one,” replied Louisa. “Then Bridget may give you another,” said the mother.
What Louisa said was not true. She had already eaten two apples. Bridget heard the falsehood, but she did not consider it her duty to betray the child, so she said nothing. The mother, however, afterwards, in the course of the day, accidentally ascertained the truth.
Now, as we have said, there are three grades in the kind and character of the measures which may be considered violent that a mother may resort to in a case like this.
1. First, there is the infliction of bodily pain. The child may be whipped, or tied to the bed-post, and kept in a constrained and uncomfortable position for a long time, or shut up in solitude and darkness, or punished by the infliction of bodily suffering in other ways.
And there is no doubt that there is a tendency in such treatment to correct or cure the fault. But measures like these, whether successful or not, are certainly violent measures. They shock the whole nervous system, sometimes with the excitement of pain and terror, and always, probably, with that of resentment and anger. In some cases this excitement is extreme. The excessively delicate organization of the brain, through which such agitations reach the sensorium, and which, in children of an early age, is in its most tender and sensitive state of development, is subjected to a most intense and violent agitation.
Evil Effects of Violence in this Form.
The evil effects of this excessive cerebral action may perhaps entirely pass away in a few hours, and leave no trace of injury behind; but then, on the other hand, there is certainly reason to fear that such commotions, especially if often repeated, tend to impede the regular and healthful development of the organs, and that they may become the origin of derangements, or of actual disorganizations, resulting very seriously in future years. It is impossible, perhaps, to know with certainty whether permanent ill effects follow in such cases or not. At any rate, such a remedy is a violent one.